Sunday, February 27, 2011

On professionalism and fun, and why they are not mutually exclusive

Have you ever met or heard of Dayglo Divine? She reffed for several years, most recently with the Charm City Roller Girls. She taught me more than I think she realizes about how to be a good derby ref. Not just about rules, mind you. But more about how seriously to take the job and how to carry yourself while you're doing it. This is a picture of Dayglo:

Totally looks like someone who would teach me about being serious as a ref, right? Well, you're wrong. She was as pro as they come, and the derby world is a far less awesome place since she retired. As a tribute to the Dayglorious one, this is what I looked like at a Halloween bout this past year:

Now, it probably should have ended there. Dayglo, though, had other plans. She asked me to continue to dress up a bit - a passing of the torch, so to speak. A few weeks ago, I was the head ref for a crew in BHRG's B Cup Invitational. I looked like this:

Far less over-the-top, perhaps, but anyone who knows Dayglo got the connection all the same. I was complemented all day about my professionalism and my calm in the center of the storm. Qualities, for the record, that I strive for in every bout I officiate.

Fast forward a bit to last night. I show up at the ref meeting, having gotten information that this HR requests we stick tournament dress, but it's not required. Now, just in case, I carry my plain white helmet in my gear bag all the time, but of course I had ole Pinky with me as well. I asked him if he was okay with it, and he replied...

"Well, you can either look professional, or you can wear that." As he said it, he pointed at my helmet and smirked.

I swallowed my anger and got the backup helmet out. Like I said earlier, I reffed the SHIT out of that bout, and again got several compliments. Why am I so steamed?

Roller derby is (or should be) FUN first. Sure, the push to make it more "legit" has been underway for a while now. I can understand - and to a certain degree, appreciate - that. But, no matter what helmet or outfit I'm wearing, I ref bouts to the very best of my ability. Refuse to take me seriously at your own peril. In the end, if a head ref doesn't like the helmet, I'll leave it in the ref room. But, man, if you've ever worked with me - or anyone else who has, you know what you're getting when I show up. Let me do the job, and let me make a few people smile when they see me too.

The where/what now?

Well, hello there intrepid reader! It's been a long time since I even looked at this lonely little page. Since it appears Blogger is a bit more robust than Tumblr, expect more lengthy blog posts here, though I'll still use that other thing for random little blurbs and other stuff that I think are fun.

So, let's talk derby for a few. I'm still Brad Religion. I'm still a ref. However, I found myself a new derby home. I made the switch from Circle City to the Bleeding Heartland Roller Girls of Bloomington, IN a few weeks ago. The reasons are many and varied, and if you needed to know them, I probably already let you know. In any case, it's all water under the bridge, so to speak.

Last night I reffed my first official bout with BHRG in Louisville, KY. I've only OPR'd a handful of bouts, and it was never a position I felt completely comfortable filling. That is, until last night. For the first time it felt like I really "got it." My positioning was solid. My timing and instincts were on. The bout was intense and emotional, and it certainly felt like it was closer than the scoreboard showed at the end of the night. We, as the zebra crew, managed to hold it all together and fun ended up being had by all - except the one unruly fan who was screaming at the refs from right beside the turn 4 whiteboard and rattling a cowbell at us. Luckily, the HR had a brief conversation with the gentleman and he settled down.

In any case, BHRG has done a wonderful job of making me feel at home and re-igniting my love for roller derby. Watch this page for more regular updates and stories from the track.